Castle on Viola Street

Castle on Viola Street

by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

Andy is so used to his family's small, run-down apartment that he can't imagine living anywhere else. But when he hears about an organization that turns abandoned houses into homes, he sees an opportunity his family can't miss. This warm, vibrant tale was inspired by DyAnne DiSalvo's own experiences with a community group just like the one in Andy's neighborhood.  See more details below


Andy is so used to his family's small, run-down apartment that he can't imagine living anywhere else. But when he hears about an organization that turns abandoned houses into homes, he sees an opportunity his family can't miss. This warm, vibrant tale was inspired by DyAnne DiSalvo's own experiences with a community group just like the one in Andy's neighborhood.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Likable young Andy narrates DiSalvo's (Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen) latest tale celebrating the importance of community and home life. He lives with his parents and two younger sisters in a cramped apartment that lacks sufficient heat in winter. His father, who each morning rises before dawn to go to work, says, "Someday things will change around here." Yet the family keeps an upbeat attitude: the narrator notes that "There always seemed to be enough to go around, even with five people at our table," while his mother comments that "Our family is rich in more ways than we can count." One day Andy learns of a meeting organized by a Habitat for Humanity-like organization, and his family joins the effort to refurbish a nearby abandoned home. As Andy's father succinctly explains, "If you're interested in helping to fix up a house for other people... then one day other people will help fix up a house for you." DiSalvo's conversational text tells how the family pitches in, and readers will applaud the news that Andy's family will move into the next house the group tackles. The loosely rendered artwork effectively captures the characters' energy and spirit of cooperation. This affecting tale will be an eye-opener for youngsters who take their warm home for granted and will send a missive of hope to those who long for the same. Ages 5-8. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
This inspiring picture book details the path Andy and his struggling family take to get a house of their own. They participate in the Habitat for Humanity program, in which families help to renovate abandoned urban properties. Andy's family signs up to help other families fix up their new houses, hoping that one day, they too will receive the gift of a house. It ends on a positive note, with the family learning that they are indeed candidates for a renovated house. Lovely drawings accompany each page of this wonderful story about the real program that has enabled many poor families to receive houses of their own. 2001, HarperCollins, $16.95 and $16.89. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Rebecca Joseph
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-Readers who are familiar with Habitat for Humanity and similar programs in theory can now see it in practice from a child's perspective. After Andy and his parents work as volunteers for an organization that buys deserted buildings and fixes them up, they finally get word that they will soon be working on a house that will become their own. The first-person narrative, while not consistently childlike in voice, does include plenty of details that gives a feel for the family's modest goals. More about their circumstances, such as Andy's lack of a bedroom before the move, is revealed only through the large, upbeat, colored-pencil and gouache illustrations. They also show that the family is warm and loving, living in a diverse neighborhood. Text is well placed, primarily on double-page spreads. The intent of the book is made clear by the foreword by Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller. Although unmistakably a book with a purpose, it succeeds in introducing children to an important movement, with the art and design allowing them to see a story along with the message.-Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A reassuring teaching story about a new home in a neighborhood that readers will recognize from DiSalvo's earlier work ("Grandpa's Corner Store", 2000) with the spirit of her "City Green "(1994). In the old days, says Andy, he and his parents and sisters lived in a tiny apartment that was never quite warm enough. On Saturday mornings he and his sister would take a pile of quarters and brown-bag lunches and go to the Soap & Go on Viola Street to do the family's laundry. He learns that the boarded-up houses across the street from the Laundromat are being purchased and renovated, and families interested could assist in the work and then be in line for a house themselves. Andy and his parents work hard every weekend for a house that the Tran family moves into; then they learn that the next house to be renovated the following spring will be theirs. A note explains the Habitat for Humanity "sweat equity" program and names other programs that help people get their own homes. Once again, DiSalvo has focused on the value of community, this one populated with a variety of ethnicities. Andy's is a little less distinctive, but it could be Italian or Latino. Warm colors enrich the cityscape vistas of laundromat, streets, and interiors reflecting the glow of shared efforts. Rewarding. "(Picture book. 5-8)
School Library Jornal
“…unmistakably a book with a purpose…[that] succeeds in introducing children to an important movement…”
ALA Booklist
“…will further raise awareness of how volunteering and home ownership can make a difference, for communities and individuals. ”

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
10.40(w) x 10.34(h) x 0.36(d)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan's books include Grandpa's Corner Store, A Castle on Viola Street, City Green and Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen. She lives in Philadelphia. In Her Own Words...

"When I was a girl growing up in Brooklyn, New York, the oldest sibling of one brother and two sisters, I never thought that my art was among the very best. My mother and father recognized my art ability early on. It was because of their sensitivity that I eventually began to acknowledge my talent and enjoy my life as an artist. I remember when I was eight years old, looking at a book one day and thinking: I can make a better book. It was from that day on that I knew I wanted to be an artist and author of children's books. Consequently, whenever anyone asked me if wanted to be an artist When I grew up, I answered, "I am all artist already."

"I always loved a sharp pencil and a new piece of paper. As a young girl, I drew all the time. Even as a teenager, I stayed in my room and drew for hours. My favorite books as a child were the Madeline series, anything by Dr. Seuss, The Five Chinese Brothers, and A Big Ball of String.

"After attending college a[ the School of Visual Arts in New York, I moved to Kansas City, Missouri" in 1978 to work with Hallmark cards. While living in Kansas City, I set tip interviews with New York publishers whenever I went back home. My first book was Published by Western Publishing in 1980. Since then, That New Baby has sold over one million copies. It is even printed in Indonesian!

"Before I begin a book I can see the whole thing. I can sense tile color and pacing. Depending on the type of manuscript Iam working with, sometimes I take a lot of photographs, sometimes I need to do historical research, sometimes I draw from my head. Usually, it is very easy for me to draw. If I find myself erasing too much, I will start all over and try to envision the picture in a new way.

My characters are based on people I know or people I have seen. I want children to be able to see themselves or their neighbors when they look at my illustrations. I want them to feel familiar. Many of my personal experiences become the source of inspiration for my stories. The story of Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen was born from the three years I spent working at a soup kitchen while I lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn. City Green was inspired by the garden lot that I passed on my way there. Inspiration for Grandpa's Corner Store comes from a local grocer with many loyal customers (including me) in Haddon Heights, New Jersey. Before writing, A Castle on Viola Street, I worked for several months building and renovating houses in Camden, New Jersey, through a nonprofit group like Habitat for Humanity. I donate a percentage of my royalties from each book to the organization that they support. This is my way of contributing back to the communities and purposes my books provide.

Currently, I live in a historical town just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I like living in a small town. It is quiet and easy to think. But the moment I cross the Verranzano Bridge into Brooklyn, I am enchanted by the man sweeping outside the little bodega. I am charmed by three women talking on a street corner, holding the red-and-white strings of their bakery boxes. There are teenagers in curlers and kids scooping puddle water with spoons. From fire escapes to gum spots I see life in the buildings and movement on the sidewalks. I take out my sharp pencil and a clean piece of paper. I am an artist already."

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